The Pyrenees

Wednesday, October 14 – Day 35

I don’t think the earplugs worked that well. There was a snorer in the room, but not a horribly loud one. I was still able to sleep, just not as much as I would have liked to.

At breakfast it looked cloudy, but I was hoping it would clear in time for the sunrise. I was hoping to get a gorgeous picture! I put it off for as long as I could, but I started on my way at 8:30. I was right behind Ed and Suky, which was fabulous, because they’re in most of my early pictures, adding lots of pilgrim character.

Even though it was cloudy, there was still some visibility. It wasn’t completely fogged over. It was also cold, and got colder as I went up. I took my jacket off for a while, but up on top with lots of wind and no sun, it was very, very cold. I have to give kudos to my jacket. I only had a short sleeve on under it, and it was perfect. It did a very good job of blocking the wind and keeping me warm, without ever getting hot. I didn’t sweat at all today. I did have to break out the gloves as well. It’s hard to say how cold it was, but it felt very cold. My fingers froze a bit.

It was absolutely magical, walking up the mountain in the growing light, watching things change. The clouds, and the fog, and hearing the bells of the sheep, cows, and horses. Yes, horses with bells!

There were also vultures. Like real vultures. Not the red headed turkey buzzards, but real vultures with gray heads and fluffy collars. Some of them flew over me close enough that I could see that. And I could hear the wind through their feathers as they flapped their wings. One vulture cruised over in a glide, and he was going fast enough that he actually sounded like a little fighter jet. It was amazing.

I was hoping that the clouds would clear more as the day went on. Sometimes it seemed like it was trying to. I would see a bit of sky here and there, but it always closed over.

I followed the road almost all the way up, and at one point I was passed by a little tour bus. I got around the corner, and the tour bus had stopped, and a bunch of people were getting out. Turns out if was a group of mostly Americans taking a walking tour of Basque country, and today they were walking over the Pyrenees, but only the top part. They didn’t have to work very hard. It was odd. In France, it was easy, you saw someone and said Bonjour. Now I have no idea what to say to people. It’s going to take some getting used to.

I got ahead of them as the guide explained stuff, but because I kept stopping to take pictures, they eventually caught up with me again.

At one point we were coming up to a fountain, and I stopped to take a picture, and the guide was right behind me and told me the border between France and Spain was at the cattle guard. So I took the obligatory picture with one food in France and one food in Spain. I wouldn’t have known if he wasn’t there. I checked on my Google maps app, and sure enough, I was at the border. Pretty cool!

Not only did I walk into Spain, I also walked into Fall. It’s amazing how different the two sides of the mountain are! In France Fall was threatening, but it hadn’t quite gotten there yet. It’s in full Swing in Spain. I also wasn’t expecting the two sides to be so different. The French side is rocky and grassy, and Spain is full of trees. I think they might be beech trees? The Spanish side was also completely fogged in. At least I had a good view at the beginning.

It was still wonderful and cold.

I got to the point where I started going down. The forest was lovely.

I got into Roncevaux/Roncesvalles and went to look at the abbey/monastery whatever it is. It was only 1 pm, but I had already decided not to stay there.

I went to look at the church and ran into Tracy. We sat outside on the stairs, soaking in the sun. I also ate the rest of my gateau basque (and shared some with Tracy, of course) and some yogurt. I had gotten hungry earlier, but I was too cold to stop and eat. It’s the kind of cold you have to keep moving in.

It was wonderful to sit and soak up the sun. Tracy decided she would continue as well, so we both walked another 6.5k to Espinal. I’m really glad she came with me. Even though I’ve been doing this for 5 weeks already, Spain is different from France. It’s just different, and I don’t know what to expect or how it works yet, so it was comforting having someone else with me, because we both didn’t know what we were doing. It was an odd feeling to set off this morning not having a reservation and knowing where I would be staying. I’m sure I will like it, but it’s just different from what I’m used to.

It was a lovely walk. The houses still looked very Basque, but still different from France.

Tracy had been to a camino group before and met a couple who started walking, but then ended up spending some days with a woman who had fallen off of a bridge and broken her leg. So every time we came to a bridge, we were certain that this was the bridge she had fallen off of. It was some bridge between here and Pamplona.

It was really nice walking and talking with Tracy, and it was still very cold. I had my jacket on the whole day, which I’ve never done before. I think it will get warmer again after we get out of the foothills.

We found the albergue/hostel in Espinal and just walked into the bar and paid 12 E. So far there are just 3 of us, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed that tonight will be a good one.

Prunie is from Germany, and she’s walked from there!  Today she walked from St. Jean to Espinal, that’s like 34k, and including the Pyrenees.  She’s hardcore.

Dinner was fish soup, then pork and french fries, and a rice pudding.



Add yours →

  1. The pictures are just gorgeous! Those trees are amazing! I’m glad you were able to get the pic of one foot in France and the other in Spain. ☺ I’m also glad Tracy is with you. It sounds really different being in Spain, including not making reservations ahead of time for a place to stay. I’m also glad you and Tracy made it so far with no broken bones. ☺


  2. That vulture flyby sounds awesome. I would love to see that.

    In Spain can you just say Buenos días? Or Buen día? (Varies regionally.) Though that’s only in the morning; afternoon you change to tarde.

    Google Translate says that in Basque, good morning is egun on, and hello is kaixo.


  3. Since you have no idea what language the other person might be speaking, just say a polite “Hello!” in English to that person. Then the person can reply back in his/her language of choice, or return your English greeting.
    I look forward to hearing about your experiences of northern Spain.


  4. I really like Doug’s idea of saying “Hello” and letting them reply however they want to. 🙂 Sounds easy.


  5. The mountains are gorgeous. And the forest. And I love the picture of Tracy soaking up the sun.


  6. If you’re on the trail, you can also say, “Buen Camino.” “Hola,” is hello. The H is silent.


  7. Yes, the vulture experience sounds way awesome! It makes me think all those cartoons I watched as a kid weren’t taking too many liberties with the dive-bombing sounds.


  8. Betsey! I am finally catching up on your journey, and so enjoying it from my cushion on the floor. 🙂 You are in Spain, girl! The days when we talked about this seem so long ago to me now. The pix are so beautiful; I especially love the ones of the trees in the fog. And given your food fetish :-), I also love that you took a pic of yourself with one “food” in France and the other “food” in Spain. I think you need to go back to the border and photo a croissant on one side and a ?? Basque cake? on the other.


  9. The Pyranees look awesome! So cool that you hiked across them! Your photos are amazing…maybe you should be a travel or landscape photographer!


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